The Sun Fish by Irish poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin has a special place in my study.
A gift from my Queensland poet friend Pam Schindler, it's a book I return to again and again. In reading her work, I feel as if I have held in my hands some rare and marvellous thing. I don't get that feeling very often. It's perfect poem-stuff.
Matthew Sweeney's right when he says in his review of The Sun Fish, that there is no one else in Irish poetry or poetry elsewhere, writing like this. She is unique.
What I treasure in her is her integrity in sticking to her own vision, in trusting her reader to come to her poems in their own space and to understand the symbols of her world without the poet having to step in with words of explanation, context, and all the gravitas of "situation".
"In order for the poem to get written, something has to happen."
(Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin paraphrased by Matthew Sweeney in his review of The Sun Fish)
We can feel that something has happened and that this is deeply felt experience, but transmuted.
Her poems are alive with a strange light from another world, and yet they are also pegged down to a reality that one can feel and experience like a taste on the roof of one's mouth.
Her work epitomises for me the dictum that poetry has to change something.
Otherwise, why write it at all?